Rose’s Last Prayer

two birds soaring in clear blue skies

After Mom died, I went through her apartment, looking for something special. There was plenty, but the most profound find was a prayer she had written on a notecard and tucked into a magazine by the sofa. The first time I read it I nearly swooned when I got to the part where she was clearly seeing herself making her transition. At her memorial, I read it for everyone who had come to say goodbye to their beloved Rose. She was always so full of life, and it was comforting to so many to know she was far more ready to make her move than they had realized. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house after hearing her words. I’ve learned a lot from her through this one inspiring prayer.

Dear Jesus,

I release all my worries to you.

I am yours, filled with the love and light of your presence.


I trust in you and am not afraid for you are my strength.

Keep me close to you.

I desire your will above all else.

Daughter rises to heaven and blends with angelic melodies of praise

Prepare me for this day that awaits me

and point me in the right direction.

I ask your Spirit to quiet my mind

so that I can think Your thoughts.

I walk in the Light with you.

Rose in 2007, exploring the property at our house on Squirrel Lane


orange flower with butterfly

I just sat down and read my post on Mom’s message about eternity. Not only did it bring me to tears as I felt her come close to me, but I realized that I never wrote about her message from beyond the veil about joy…nearly four years ago! “You need to do that,” she says over my shoulder, “It’s about time.”

I remember the two weeks after we returned from her memorial. I rarely get sick, but I was laid up on the couch that whole time, sick as a dog with a sinus infection. My husband needed surgery for a hernia gone wrong and was also laid up. The house was quiet most days as I listened for her voice.

Then it happened. I saw her in Spirit, beaming. But…what were those wet and crinkly things hanging off her back? I watched in fascination as they dried and unfurled into huge, magnificent wings. I mean HUGE! Like a giant butterfly’s wings. And they flowed like a sparkling, colorful bridal train behind her. “Wow,” I told her, “your wings are spectacular!” She smiled and giggled, then turned to look behind her.

I tried to see what she was looking at, but it was so far away. Vaguely I could see her physical body, crumpled up and small in the distance, darkened by her radiant presence. “That body never was big enough to hold all of me,” she said with a smile.

“I want to you to know that everything is fine now, Honey. I am filled with so much joy, so much more than you can imagine. And I want to tell you something important. So important that you must share it with everyone you can. Joy…THIS joy…is available to everyone. It is held out with open hands for anyone to take freely. So why is there so much sorrow and pain in the world? Nothing in the world can bring you this joy, and many just don’t know that it’s available. But it is the barriers we build within us that prevent us from receiving it. So here’s what I have to say. WE build those barriers and it’s we who must remove them. Look within, and see where you have raised barriers to pain, heartbreak, regrets…whatever they may be. And wherever you find a barrier to the joy you could have…TEAR IT DOWN!!! I’m serious. It’s not going to hurt you. It’s not going to hurt anyone else. Break down all the barriers to joy and it will fill you up. Tell your friends.”

It’s that simple. Some barriers might be harder to take down than others, but every one that comes down is like a dam bursting. And joy will flood your soul as far as the remaining barriers will allow, making it easier to remove the next one.

Fountain of Joy

wood landscape nature water

At the time of this encounter, I and my family lived in Three Rivers, California, about one mile from the north entrance to Sequoia National Park. On January 1, 2000, we and friends visiting for the holiday decided to visit the park. Perhaps all the furor surrounding Y2K and the potential end of civilization made it seem like a good idea to see some things that were not vulnerable to the vagaries of the internet and the availability of electricity. Living things that had been around for thousands of years without any help from us. Big, ancient trees.

We visited General Sherman. Huge, magnificent, and inspiring. Lots of people around.

We climbed up to Morro Rock. There is a tree that grows from the rock (not a sequoia) that has an awesomeness all its own.

Then we decided to walk the Congress Trail.

The trees on this trail aren’t as old or as monstrous as General Sherman (one of the oldest things and the single largest living thing on Earth by mass..with the possible exception of the mycelium of fewer than a handful of fungi) but there are a lot of them and they’re massive in their own right, so it’s an inspiring walk. Because the forest floor muffles sound so effectively, it’s also quiet. Not eerie quiet. Kind of like the quiet you get when there’s a layer of new-fallen snow on the ground…living…holy…mystic…peaceful. Even our boisterous friends seemed to simmer down in the presence of these mighty elders.

As we walked through this ancestral grove, I sensed a tree calling to me. Not by name, but by spirit. I don’t know how else to explain it but a wordless calling. Heeding that call, I did what you’re absolutely not supposed to do here (in order to protect these living treasures)…I stepped off the path and walked right up to that tree. I looked up its trunk…so tall, it touched the sky. I stretched my arms around it as far as they’d go and laid my cheek against its rough, fibrous red bark.

In return, that majestic living being instantly filled me with a tremendous rush of joy. Not a rush as in “headrush.” A rush like a firehose, like a tsunami. No. Not like those at all, though every bit as powerful and then some. It was so gentle, so tender, as if it knew me personally and really wanted to take this opportunity to share some of itself that day. A rush like a magnificent fountain…a fountain of joy.

It started in my feet and rose through me from bottom to top, cleansing me, opening me, filling me. I drank it like a thirsty creature in a desert. It filled me to overflowing. I was done. So done. I became the fountain, and I could feel joy pulsing through me like a force of nature, pouring out the top of my head and crashing back to the forest floor beneath my feet. Tears streamed down my face as I laughed and sobbed uncontrollably.

In a few moments, I was changed forever by the revelation of the joy this generous creature had accumulated in its thousands of years of life on Earth.

There she stood, right where she had sprouted millennia earlier. She had seen uncountable moments of life in her own forest and though she had never moved, she had been alive and aware, standing witness to the rises and falls of many civilizations near and far. She had been a friend to indigenous people and to countless other living creatures. She had borne children and survived many a fire, a storm, a logger’s blade, and who knows what else. This joy not only stood the tests of time but grew and magnified with every passing moment. The tree’s gratitude for every second of her life was intense, indomitable, insurmountable…as deep and profound as the ocean of God’s love, as infinite and boundless as the night sky.

I was breathless as my tree destroyed and then surpassed my previous understanding of joy. She took my understanding of kismet (the will of God) to an entirely new level. I had experienced it before, but this was an entirely new and far more powerful experience of what Rumi called “fanaa,” the evanescence of the soul as it dies to self and is filled, replaced with the eternal, mysterious divine…touching, melding with, becoming one with the ineffable presence of The One. The Creator. The Living God. Oh yeah. All I had ever desired came to me in one wordless embrace.

My husband spotted it first and gave the others a heads up. “Look out, everyone, Hannah just got filled with the Holy Spirit!!” I stumbled, swooning, back onto the path, ran to him, and threw my arms around his shoulders as we walked. The tears dried on my cheeks and the laughter turned to an alert yet peaceful sense of being. We walked through the forest back to our car and drove home.

Now I think of that tree almost every day, remembering the powerful fountain of joy she poured through me. She didn’t reveal her name and I didn’t want to be disrespectful by giving her one, but I know we will recognize each other when we meet again. And on that day I will feel her calling to me as it did all those years ago. I will run up and fling my arms around her massive trunk again. I will look up at her grandeur and touch the sky. And perhaps I will even be able to show my dear, beloved old friend how much her fountain of joy taught me about the joy of life…and the importance of sharing that joy along the way. For now, I’m praying my friend will survive the fire that’s burning near her now.

Eternity Begins Today

Eternity Begins Today - A Rose for Rose, 5 x 7 oil on board by Hannah West, © 2016

It is now two and a half weeks since my mother “passed away.” I add the quotes because she has made quite an effort to remain in contact. She has shared some important thoughts from beyond the veil—that imperceptible barrier between the tangible reality that’s familiar to us and the extended reality we rarely if ever see. Most importantly, she wants us to know that she is not far away but right here.

It happened a day or two after my family returned from the journey we’d made to see her off into the arms of her/our beloved Jesus. I deeply believe what he said, “He who lives and believes in me will never die.” Yet as strong as I’d hoped I would be in the weeks leading up to this moment, it was so hard to embrace the absence of her physical being. We came home to find a soft, gentle presence waiting to comfort us. I knew that sweet gentleness. It was my pretty little mom, Rose, filling our house with peace. Still, I found myself contending with regrets and a profound sense of loss.

As I tried to wrap my head around the contradictions between what I felt, what I believe, and what I was experiencing, I said to her silently that I was already looking forward to reuniting with her when my own time came. Then we could be together forever. In my mind her response came strong and clear. The words seemed to grow louder and more powerful in my head until they actually came out of my own mouth. “Eternity Begins Today.” I had to laugh and thank her out loud. When you look at it that way, the concept of loss utterly loses its power.

It’s a conversation we’ve had often in our house. That when we are filled with the Holy Spirit and he begins to permeate our being, eternal replaces temporal in us in a powerful yet subtle metamorphosis that’s not always easy to detect. Though the mortal body may benefit from this for a while, it is still subject to time and therefore headed for an end. Nonetheless, our personal “forever” has already begun, and the shift changes the way we perceive time, relationships, circumstances…everything. Why is it so hard to believe this when the moment we need its comfort comes?

My husband’s brother slipped beyond the veil earlier this year. Just after he bravely made his move, our son and I joined my husband to accompany our sister in law through the early stages of her mourning. During this time we became very close. Though Mom was contending with breast cancer, I knew she could say something to comfort her, as she had been “widowed” too. I called to ask if she was feeling well enough, and she said she was happy to talk with Lily. They had a long conversation and when they hung up, Lily was glowing.

Eternity Begins Today - Rose's Smile


Lily and I usually talk on the phone every few days now. Long, uplifting conversations filled with laughter and tears and wisdom we both treasure. Last week we were talking about Rose, and she said that she was so grateful to have been able to talk with her but sorry she hadn’t met her in person. We cried together and I told her how much I would have loved that, and how much Mom would have loved her. Then Rose stepped forward and the words started to flow…

The sense of loss we’re feeling isn’t loss at all. It’s a personal, temporal experience of change, but there is no loss when the person still lives. This person may no longer be touched or heard or seen, but that is simply because they have left behind their shell, their physical body. This body really is like a cocoon, cozy and familiar…yet subject to the ravages of time. Moreover, it’s a very small vessel containing a spirit who, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit through our experience of life, is undergoing a transformation that will result in a being that lives beyond time. Through our experiences in this life, our best and our worst are revealed, and we have the opportunity to grow and transform as we learn to overcome the weaknesses these events reveal. This metamorphosis isn’t complete until the spirit bursts out of its cocoon, unfurling to its full magnificence.

Mom’s point was this: while she is still Rose, the weaknesses she overcame are no longer a part of her. The last of them were shed with her skin, and now it’s just a matter of learning a different way of knowing her than before. But she is not far away. “I didn’t die and go to Heaven. We are all in Heaven right now, on this beautiful planet that flies through space. I am now one more in the great Cloud of Witnesses, those who have gone before and now surround you, watching, praying, encouraging and helping you through your journeys. No one goes anywhere until the Guide returns to show us the way to the New Earth, the place he is preparing for us so we who love him can be together with him there.”

As it was revealed to my husband years ago, we have tens of thousands of years to work out the things we didn’t overcome in this life. We have eternity to get to know those we loved from afar but never met. To watch each others gardens grow, to admire their eternal selves, to say and to do the things we always wanted to but couldn’t. At least the important things…

“Do you see? There is no loss! You’re getting to know me at my best! I am the Rose who has passed through the fire and been purified by it. The Rose who now has joy beyond words and wants to share it with you. You don’t have to wait until you shed your own cocoon to meet me. Eternity Begins Today!

Rose in 2010